Flight to Enlightenment

When your transatlantic flight is supposed to take place on a plane called the Dreamliner, what comes to mind first? Perhaps it’s the little luxuries; things like various entertainment choices on your own personal mini-screen, great service from flight attendants, hot food, comfortable seats, cozy blankets, charging ports, and so on.

Well, I immediately thought of the Ship of Dreams – the Titanic. Ironically enough, the plane’s namesake never made it either. For technical reasons, this Norwegian airplane was out of commission and I would not be getting my “dream” flight. Instead, I was delayed over 24 hours and lost an entire day in my starting destination of Copenhagen, which brought with it issues that seemed more like a nightmare.

photo-2By always looking on the bright side, I reasoned that the delay left me with more time to pack. Of course, I ended up waiting until the last minute, which is a pretty standard move for me. But thanks to the willingness of seasoned travelers to share their experiences, I found the ultimate packing list and got to business. I was able to fit all my necessities into a forty-four pound suitcase and the JanSport Watchtower Daypack.

So on May 2nd, I headed to the airport along with a bubbling mixture of my differing emotions. Norwegian was able to lease a Boeing from Euro Atlantic Airways, a Portuguese airline left with the task of accommodating over a hundred unhappy passengers. The fact that I’m able to take a Norwegian flight to a country of Danes on a Portuguese plane illustrates how our world has become increasingly globalized. The seating turned into a free for all, and linguistic chaos ensued, although most people seem to speak English. No matter how stylish my arrival, I couldn’t believe that the adventure of a lifetime would finally begin.

As I sat in the airport waiting to board, I constantly caught snippets of conversations I couldn’t understand. There are so many different languages in this world, and I’m only fluent in one. Although their smallest units of sound (aka phonemes) are so unlike those I’m used to creating and shaping with my tongue, I realize that some things are the same no matter what. Expressions and emotions are universal; a wide smile, an excited tone, and the relationship between the people speaking are nonetheless discernible.

We are brought up to believe that we can infer a lot about individuals based on how they look, what they wear, or where they’re from. I think you don’t know anything about anyone until you have a genuine interaction – by feeling their energy, looking into their eyes, and connecting through conversation.

I’ll be spending six weeks in six countries, including Demark, the Netherlands, France, Great Britain, Ireland, and Spain. Like most people, I’m no princess, but I’m no pauper either. I fall somewhere in the middle, and I’ll need to stick to a budget.

I feel truly blessed to be able to take this journey. I think that we often lose sight of how lucky we really are, in favor of focusing on our have-nots. I’m told that traveling gives the gift of perspective. And hey, we could all use a little perspective.

UntitledThe passengers on my flight were mostly Scandinavian. After speaking with a couple of friendly people, I started to realize how vast the cultural differences would be. Discussing technology, music, language specifics, work, government, manners, open-mindedness, and even how Europeans use the bathroom, I came to the conclusion that I have a lot to learn.

P.S. – Scandinavia is not a country, it’s a cultural-linguistic region made up of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Fredrik, a Swede with whom I had my first conversation, mentioned that many Americans he’d come in contact with didn’t know that. In fact, some of them didn’t even know Sweden existed.

Along with this information and many other things I picked up before even departing the USA, I can start to see an emerging trend. Europeans seem to know a lot more about Americans than Americans know about Europeans. Originally, I thought I’d be focusing on my interpretation of other cultures, but I’m already beginning to reflect on my own.

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